The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has given Kenyan-born Bahraini runner Nelly Jepkosgei a three-year ban from competition following charges of tampering with the doping control process. After she missed a drug test in March 2020, Jepkosgei told anti-doping officials she had been at the hospital with her sister, whom she claimed had been involved in a car accident, although this proved to be a lie.
Middle-distance runner Nelly Jepkosgei of Bahrain has been banned for three years having accepted a charge of tampering, a violation of the @WorldAthletics Anti-Doping Rules.
— Athletics Integrity Unit (@aiu_athletics) March 2, 2021
Jepkosgei is a middle-distance runner, and in 2019 she won a pair of Diamond League 800m races in Rabat, Morocco, and Lausanne, Switzerland. She is currently in the process of transitioning from competing as a Kenyan athlete to running for Bahrain. Before her ban from the AIU, she would have been able to make here debut as a Bahraini runner in August, but that race will now have to wait.
According to the AIU report on Jepkosgei, drug testers arrived at her home in Kapsabet, Kenya, on March 18, 2020, at 8 p.m. Athletes in the World Athletics Testing Pool must keep anti-doping officials updated with their whereabouts throughout the year, and they are also required to carve out a one-hour time slot during which testers can drop by any day.
If an athlete is not where they said they would be (usually at their home) during this hour-long window, they will be given a whereabouts failure. Three whereabouts failures in a 12-month span will be treated like a positive drug test, and the athlete will be suspended and face a ban from competition.
When testers arrived at Jepkosgei’s home, her husband informed them that Jepkosgei had been called to the hospital to check on her sister. Testers remained at the home for the full hour time slot, and after Jepkosgei didn’t show up, they filed her whereabouts failure. A month later, Jepkosgei reportedly filed a written explanation for her missed test, repeating the story her husband had told the testers and adding that she would provide documents from the hospital to prove her story.
In June, Jepkosgei’s team emailed the AIU a “discharge summary document for the athlete’s sister,” which said Jepkosgei’s sister “had been admitted to hospital on 18 March 2020 and had ‘remained there for some days.'” The AIU continued to press for details, and Jepkosgei’s representative in the matter eventually told officials the name of the hospital at which her sister had received care.
Kenya’s Nelly Jepkosgei wins the women’s 800m at the #RabatDL in 1:59.50??
— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) June 16, 2019
With that information, the AIU enlisted the help of the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK). ADAK officials dug deeper, searching for accident reports from the local police, only to come up empty. Next, they visited the hospital, where the medical superintendent “confirmed that the athlete’s sister did not appear in the hospital records … and that the specific number given on the discharge summary related to a patient with a different name.”
The AIU concluded that Jepkosgei had tampered with the drug test by faking the car accident, and in February she officially admitted to the lie. She has now been issued a three-year ban, which is listed as having started on February 1 of this year, and she has retroactively been disqualified from all competitions she entered since June 15, 2020.